Your Short Trip Bikeraft Kit: What Should You Take on Your Next 2-Day Adventure?
Story by Lizzy Scully. Most photos by Doom. Pics of gear laid out by river and shot of person cutting veggies by Spencer Harding.
"Bringing the right amount of the appropriate gear is, in my mind, a critical component to any successful mission. Traveling alone and without language skills only intensifies the need for proper planning and self-reliance. Having said that, it would be easy to pack everything you could possibly need into a bunch of giant panniers and start a long ride, but it’s not so easy to carry, push, and shove a grossly overloaded bike around the 'Roof of the World.'" ~Steve "Doom" Fassbinder
The Tried & True: Made in the USA Gear + Some Cool New Stuff
Doom and I field a lot of questions about how to pack bikeraft kits. Since he's the expert, this overview of a two-day trip (to most anywhere) mostly reflects what he taught me and others with whom we have adventured.
So, what should you take when you go bikerafting? A minimalist, Doom brings only exactly what's necessary. Though his lightest weight wool shirt looks more like a grease rag from his bike shop, for example, he brings it everywhere because it's still the warmest and quickest to dry piece of clothing he owns.
Many of his choices are no-brainers. He works closely with Specialized Bicycles, and has a bunch (I don't know how many) of their bikes in his sacred area (the bike shed). Thanks to Specialized, Steve can travel around the world on all kinds of neat adventures.
As well, he started working years ago with Hyperlite Mountain Gear (that's how we met--I managed their ambassador team). He prefers their simple, streamlined, and bombproof backpacks, mids, and stuff sacks. And, as an early adopters of both bikepacking gear and packrafts, he remains loyal to both Revelate Designs, one of the first, longest-running, and best bikepack bag companies in the world, and Alpacka Raft, the best and also oldest packrafting company in the world. Go Made-in-the-USA gear! All those companies make their gear in the USA, with the exception of Specialized. And Revelate makes their waterproof gear abroad.
Along with his tried-and-true standard choices, Steve keeps a lot of old favorites around, most of which had their labels wear off long ago. He's basically streamlined his package to be the ultimate in ultralight, other than his camera, but that's like an extra appendage.
I, too, after having worked in marketing for Alpacka, HMG, and Revelate, and having been a rock-focused alpinist, also travel with as little gear as possible. Subsequently, I found it easy to adopt the ultra-light multi-sport tactics espoused by Doom and the other bikeraft masters--Roman Dial, Eric Parsons, Mike Curiak, etc.
Despite his loyalties, sometimes new gear appears that begs to be tested. We recently acquired a few ultralight items from Big Agnes' new bikepacking collection, which really impressed us (read more below). I still covet a few items on their website. Nice work BA. I used one of their older two-person tents in Scotland, and so was thrilled to get my hands on the Copper Spur UL2.
Our Early Spring 2-Day Adventure
Anyway, Back to the Question at Hand... What to take on a 2-day adventure?
Steve and I embarked on a short trip to Southern Utah March 2019 to work on a project with his friends over at Felt Soul Media. Because we traveled together, we consolidated and shared our gear, always a good idea, as you don't need two sunscreens or toothpaste tubes. Here's what we brought.
For those of you who want to know what bikeraft kit to take on a longer bikeraft adventure, check out Steve's article, "Bikerafting Tajikistan - Here's What You Take."
Our Two-Day Desert Bikeraft Kit
Packs: One 2400 Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter Pack (I used this to carry my paddles and my Alpacka Raft Caribou Bikeraft). I would have brought my Dyneema pack of the same style, but it doesn't have an outside pocket on it, and they are sure a pain to put on. So I keep using my cuben fiber version, which is really a totally fine pack. The Dyneema is just so much sexier. Steve carried most everything on his bike, but slung a waterproof Patagonia camera bag over his neck.
Sleeping Bags & Pads: We often take our three-season Nemo Tango Duo quilt (I'm not sure if they sell this any longer), but because temps were supposed to be colder at night, we opted to take our Big Agnes Flume UL 30 (me) and the Mystic UL 15 (Steve), plus two AXL Air Pillows (love them!), and two Insulated AXL Air mattresses.
Tent: We brought my new and now absolute favorite two-person tent on this trip, the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 tent. This tent leaves plenty of room for cooking in the vestibule, offers a spacious footprint easily and comfortably fitting two people, and it features plenty of great pockets for storage. I thought the helmet straps were a bit gimmicky at first, but they're actually quite handy to keep stuff off the dirt. We typically bring our super roomy HMG Ultamid 4 on pure packrafting trips. It's spacious for cooking and storing wet gear, and extra poles are unnecessary (because we use our paddles as the mid's center pole).
Helmets: Two cycling helmets, which we could have also used for rafting if there had been any rapids (it was all flat water).
Bikes: Two Specialized hard tail bikes--a Ruse (women's) and Fuse (men's). It's really too bad they don't make these any longer, as bikepacking is just increasing exponentially in popularity. You'd think they'd want to capitalize on this!
Bike Gear: Two extra tubes, various bike tools, extra sealant, etc.
Bikepacking Bags: Various Revelate Designs frame bags, a Gas Tank (Steve) and a Mag Tank (me), plus a seat bag each, and typically we bring either a Sweetroll or a Harness. Steve straps his packraft to his handlebars, while I carry mine in my backpack.
Cooking & Water
Water: Aqua-Mira drops, one two-liter MSR dromedary and another plastic, compressible water bag, plus two bike water bottles (that I carried in two RD Cockpits on either side of my handle bars--these offer great storage for a small sunscreen, lip balm, and trash)
Cookware: One knife, two titanium sporks, a large titanium pot with lid that doubles as a small fry pan, two lightweight mugs, one tiny, ancient Pocket Rocket + fuel, a couple lighters, a handkerchief, and I think that's it...
- Small first aid kit
- A headlamp each
- Lip balm
- Pair of sunglasses each
- Various Hyperlite Mountain Gear stuff sacks and pods.
- Two toothbrushes, and one small toothpaste
- A small tin of sunscreen, a Pain Relief tin, and a First Aid Tin, all by Green Goo.
- Yes to Cucumbers or Burt's Bees face wipes (I like these better than the toxic-smelling standard baby wipes)
- Extra toilet paper, two wag bags, some extra tampons (just in case), and a couple extra small plastic ziplocks to carry out used face wipes and other stinky trash.
- Two pairs of socks each (I like my Smartwool!)
- A couple rain jackets.
- A pair of lightweight camp shoes each (I have Evolv's Slack flip flops, and Steve uses an old pair of plastic shoes he got from who knows where)
- Two pairs of sneakers (I use a pair of La Sportiva Bushidos because that's what the local Durango Outdoor store had that fit; I like them just fine)
- One pair of undies each (I'm obsessed with the comfy, moisture-wicking Boody bamboo undies. It's also sustainably made and organic!)
- One pair of lightweight, quick-drying pants each (I use BD's Traverse Pants, and Steve just got a pair of Patagonia's performance pants--I don't know the model)
- One pair of super old Montbell fleece pants (for cold me)
- One puffy each (Steve's Patagonia Nano Puff, my old eight-year-old OR puffy that I don't think they sell any longer), and one extra puffy vest for me (The Feathered Friends Helios Down Vest is the best!)
- One lightweight synthetic or wool layer (Steve)
- A ball cap for Steve, and one beanie each.
- An old pair of Gore-Tex Patagonia pants.
Patagonia Tech Hoodie: I'm going to give a special shout out to Patagonia for making the absolute best hoodie ever made for any sort of water sports, the Men's Sunshade Technical Hoodie. HOWEVER, Patagonia, it would be fantastic to have a women's version! Women only have a non-technical version, so I'm forced to wear Men's XS, which is still quite large on me.
Note: This list pretty much reflects what I took in my bikeraft kit on my week-long solo trip to Scotland, except I had a few extra pairs of undies and socks, and instead of the fleece pants, I brought an old pair of heavy-weight Montbell wool long undies. And instead of my Patagonia Tech Hoodies, I brought an Ibex wool layer. And, of course, I carried much more dehydrated foods, more coffee, and more snacks in Scotland.
Paddles: Two Aqua-Bound Whiskey 4pc fiberglass paddles (my favorite because they are just so light!)
Straps: Four Titan Straps each, to strap the bikes on the boats and to strap various things on the bikes. These are absolutely indispensable.
Two PFDs. I just bought the Astral V-8. It's quite light and comfy.